Stunning Panoramas Put China's Moon Rover and Lander in Lunar Spotlight (Photos)

by Nina Sen, SPACE.com Contributor
January 30, 2014
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Stunning Panoramas Put China's Moon Rover and Lander in Lunar Spotlight (Photos)

This time-lapse, cropped panorama of the Chang'e-3, Yutu Rover landing site shows the last position of the Yutu rover as it heads off to the south, departing the landing site. The image was created by Ken Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo using Chang

China's first moon rover and lander are revealed in amazing detail in stunning new panoramic images stitched together from recent photos from the country's Chang'e 3 lunar mission.

The panoramic moon photos were assembled by photographer and writer Ken Kremer and his colleagues using individual images from the Chang'e 3 lander, as well as its Yutu rover. Chinese Chang'e 3 mission scientists are currently working on a potentially serious malfunction on the Yutu rover, as it and the lander hibernate through their second 14-day "night" on the moon.

The first image here was stitched from six pictures released to a state-run Chinese news outlet. The initial panoramic view of China's Chang'e 3 moon lander and rover was then enhanced to improve contrast, lighting and uniformity, which resulted in revealed more detail. [See more photos from China's Chang'e 3 moon mission]

Kremer and his partners then created a time-lapse panoramic image to show how the Yutu moon rover moves by adding it to additional positions onto the first panoramic.

"I scoured all the sources and found two additional locations where Yutu was imaged," Kremer wrote SPACE.com in an email. "Altogether it [the second time-lapse panoramic] shows Yutu at three different positions around the landing site and gives a real sense of how she is maneuvering around."

The imaging team then carefully matched these Yutu positions to precisely match with the terrain at each exact location. The team also adjusted the rover size and color balance to realistically show what it looks like to scale as its driving to the right on the right side of the lander.

The last position shows the Yutu rover heading off to the south and departing the landing site.

China's Chang'e 3 mission landed on the moon on Dec. 14 and are currently exploring the Mare Ibrium (Sea of Rains) region. The solar-powered rover is designed to last for at least two months, while the Chang'e 3 lander is expected to spend a year studying the moon's surface and monitoring the lunar environment.

The mission is China's first lunar landing mission and follows two earlier moon-orbiting missions using the Chang'e 1 and 2 spacecraft. The missions are named after the moon goddess Chang'e 3 in Chinese mythology. The Yutu rover (the name means "Jade Rabbit") is named for the rabbit pet of the Chang'e goddess.


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